by David Fortwengler
Wednesday will mark the anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival in the U.S. for the beginning of what was, by all accounts, a well-received visit. He received unparalleled Head-of-State treatment, favorable press, and is beloved by his flock.
American Catholics didn’t know how, or even if, the pontiff would address the scandal, so the collective sigh of relief when he departed five days later was palpable. Many Catholics will remember the visit as when they put the “church abuse scandal” in the past. After all,
He mentioned it.
He mentioned it repeatedly.
Before history is rewritten, I remember it a little bit different.
Preparations for visit
When the Pope’s trip was originally announced at the’07 Bishop’s meeting, a flurry of activity began. Elaborate receptions were planned, stadiums were secured for events, millions of dollars were raised, tickets allocated, volunteers recruited, and many meetings were scheduled. It was a logistical effort described by Archbishop Wuerl of Washington as “monumental.”
The President, Harry Connick, Kelly Clarkson, and the representative from Jainism had appointments. No time was allocated for anyone who was raped by his employees and betrayed by his hierarchy. In fairness, they did exclude Sikh representatives who wouldn’t surrender their ceremonial daggers.
Cardinal Ratzinger’s record
As I reflect on the Papal visit, it is important to review the record he arrived here with. His street cred. Before becoming Pope, he was employed 24 years as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, head of the only Vatican department that can investigate and discipline an abusive priest. No person on the planet knows more about sexual abuse by clergy and how it is handled by supervisors, or could if he wanted to. He has access to the “secret archives”. His public record on the issue however, includes the following;
-An interview with EWTN in September 2002. Asked what he identifies as the root cause of the sexual abuse crisis, Cardinal Ratzinger said, "The general element is a weakness of human beings, even of priests. Temptations are present also for the priests. I think the essential point is a weakness of faith."
-Slapping the hand of ABC reporter Brian Ross for having the audacity to ask him a question about the Maciel investigation. (shown in Jason Berry’s documentary “Vows of Silence”)
-His involvement in circulating documents that instructed Bishops on procedures to maintain confidentiality (secrecy) in cases of child sexual abuse.
In summary, his extensive research and first hand knowledge indicates less than 1% of priests molested minors, confirms that is the going rate for the U.S., believes the root cause of the scandal is a weakness of faith and human beings, says molesters are succumbing to temptation, he prefers secrecy and avoiding questions, and media coverage is an intentional campaign to discredit the church.
And, he's off !!
Thank goodness I am not a betting man. Before 2007, I would’ve wagered any amount that he would be too ashamed to step foot in this country. Oops. The invitations are sent, Catholics and the press are waiting, “Shephard 1” is fueled and ready for takeoff.
The theme for his visit is “Christ Our Hope”, and even this old survivor is hopeful something will happen that offers some solace to so many who have been horrendously betrayed.
To be continued...